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    National Geographic Ends Anonymous Accounts At Scienceblogs.com
    By Hank Campbell | August 18th 2011 03:59 PM | 2 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0® and co-author of "Science Left Behind".

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    National Geographic, which nows runs Scienceblogs.com, has put the hammer down on anonymous blogs.

    Really, that whole thing was always a little sketchy.  Supposedly the rationale was that these people were going to be edgy insiders revealing things too explosive for mainstream media and maybe damaging to their careers but it mostly ended up being a way to rant about politics without accountability.  

    Now, the drugmonkey column is actually pretty good - good enough that I read it and that's where I saw the announcement - but the paranoia has always run a little high over there.  He/she thinks National Geographic wanted some über-powerful brand and nothing more, not the contributors, but the Scienceblogs.com brand was nothing special.  The people were what made it successful, certainly SEED Media did little to help other than getting Chris Mims to do all of the work in the beginning.  

    Adam Bly worked on NG for a year to take it over, asking for first a lot of money and then a little and then none at all because he wanted it to look like an accretive acquisition to the public and for the writers at Scienceblogs.com to feel like it was a step up and they had made it to the big leagues.  But National Geographic did not regard it that way, there was clearly internal dissent about taking it at all because the brand was not well regarded, outside the minds of some Scienceblogs people who truly thought no one read anyone but them.

    When you buy a successful 'brand' you do not change it.   Take Google buying YouTube - YouTube was successful and Google Video was not.  The last thing Google wanted to do was change that because it was successful.  All they had to do was monetize it. Scienceblogs was not successful in the eyes of National Geographic but they felt like they could make it so, and monetize it where SEED could not, namely by making it a science site Republicans and religious people could read, just like National Geographic itself.

    While they are losing one pretty good blog, the credibility of the site goes way up when the content is more mainstream science written and by people with visible credentials.  There are early adopters in any nascent medium, science blogging is still just that, and sometimes early adopters get marginalized when the market grows.   National Geographic may make Scienceblogs into "The Borg" some of their contributors claimed it was just before the company went out of business but if they do, it will partially be because they require real names for real people and that earns the trust of the audience.

    The other part in that will be that the National Geographic brand is real - and it is big.  Few companies get to that size without knowing what they are doing.

    Comments

    I'm glad that this is in regards to the bloggers themselves, and not the readers who post using noms de plume.

    Hank
    Doesn't PZ's column require a login to comment now?  Not sure but I thought he had switched his to no unknown people.  Commenters are a different issue - the barrier to make a commenter create an account to leave a comment is too high.  We have a captcha once per article and even that causes a dropoff but spammers spoiled that party long ago and no one wants comments to evaporate completely by making them register.

    It will cause some short term turmoil over there but in the long run NG will be very good for the writers.